GRANOLAPARK: Depart mental

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Budget work sessions! That’s what it’s all about now. One. Department. At. A. Time.

Each Takoma Park city department presents a yearly report to the city council leading up to the city manager’s final budget presentation. They are running behind schedule however, which caused the city manager to fret at the March 23 meeting.  At this rate there will only be two meetings after department presentations for the council to “reconcile” the budget – make the hard decisions about where and whether to cut program/department budgets, whether to raise taxes, or whether to dip into the city’s piggy-bank (reserve funds).

Much of the delay is due to long question and answer sessions between the council and department heads. Not to mention the obligatory praise-heaping each councilmember feels they have to do for all the departments and department heads. They could save at least half an hour each meeting by saying “insert praise here” and then getting on with their questions. By the third and fourth time Your Gilbert hears “I’m such a big fan our your department, you do such a wonderful job! Why, I remember this one incident  . . . ” we are ready to bang our head against the nearest empty slivovitz bottle.

The councilmembers also use precious minutes showing how knowledgable they are about the department’s programs.  And a few more reminding everybody how INSTRUMENTAL their individual efforts were to create and sustain those programs – the popular ones. The controversial ones get sternly questioned and chastised.

Of course, the point of these reports is to give an opportunity to the department heads to boost their department. They explain how each and every operation and staff member are the only things standing between the city and indescribable doom – such as UNHAPPY CONSTITUENTS.

Councilmembers have nightmares about unhappy constituents.

In past weeks the council had reports from the general staff (city managers office, city clerk, etc.) and the Public Works Department. The essence of the latter report was – “We got our renovations!! WEEEEE!” The council concurred – especially since the renovations have not exceeded the budget very much.  The report included separate reviews of the Watershed Implementation and Stormwater budgets.

April 23 it was the Housing and Community Development budget under review. The council, Terry Seamens leading the charge, took director Sarah Daines to task for single-family home code enforcement. He and councilmembers Fred Schultz and Kay Daniels-Cohen said they’ve been getting constituent complaints about it. When the code enforcement office sees a violation of code enforcement – an overgrown yard, broken windows, or other conditions that threaten local property values, it sends out a “courtesy warning.”

The problem is the wording on the courtesy warning. Apparently, it makes it seem as though a call to the city is optional, but  the code enforcement folks consider it mandatory. So homeowners are shocked when the followup is legal action.

Sarah Daines admitted that a change in wording would clear that up.

Councilmember Seamens was for re channeling code enforcement money into supporting local business.

The library

The council could not stop gushing. No matter how loudly your Gilbert hollered at the meeting’s recorded video stream.

Yes, yes, we all LOVE the library, The library director Ellen Arnold-Robbins could barely be heard delivering her report over the squeals and screaming of her fans on the council. She was only able to proceed after her body guard, library public services coordinator, Rebecca Brown doused the council with a handy fire hose.

After the gushing – of various kinds – the council showed their love by supporting the restoration of hours the library lost due to budget cuts a couple of years ago.

How strong their support is, and how strong their support for other departmental programs they want to increase or maintain funding for, will be seen when they get to those budget reconciliation meetings. They they will see the price tag for granting their wish lists: cuts to other programs, increased taxes, or higher tax rates. Of course, city manager Barbara Matthews has ways to stretch city funds into new shapes that cover more than they used to. But, even her mighty powers cannot contain a city council run amok with enthusiasm.

Those people

Those annoying people are back. The ones pushing the council to support some national peace petition or anti-Patriot Act statement or something that HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GOVERNING THE CITY. They say in actuality it does effect the city because blah blah blah blah blah.

Many on he council seem eager to add the city’s name to these efforts. Just as several councilmembers were eager to sign up for “Veg Week,” another feel-good effort organized by an “animal advocacy” group that knew a bunch of pushovers when they saw them.

We think this quote highlights the ineffectiveness of such efforts. It is from a recent Washington Post column by Tim Carman about our councilmember’s Veg-Week pledge.

“if you review the list of notable Veg Week pledgers, you’ll find that most of them, if not all, are Democrats and/or from states with enough granola eaters to almost guarantee re-election. . . . . Until a truckload of politicians from Nebraska or North Carolina or Texas take a public stand and take the Veg Week pledge, you can bet that much of the country will continue to gobble down animal proteins. And laugh at those of us trying to reduce.”

Which has been Your Gilbert’s point all along. Adding Takoma Park’s name to these progressive-cause petitions, statements, and pledges is as useless as it is predictable. These activists should be working to change minds in Nebraska, North Carolina, and Texas, not confirming them in Takoma Park.

Your Gilbert wishes they would stop wasting the city’s time, the council’s time, and most importantly – your Gilbert’s time. We could be out ironing our yard to comply with city code enforcement.

– Gilbert

About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

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